APPLEGATE VALLEY, OREGON — COWHORN, the Rogue wine country’s only Biodynamic estate, is partnering with Wine Bottle Renew to pioneer The RINSE Project, a bioregional program that closes the loop on wine bottle waste. Of the 300 million cases of wine sold each year in the United States, 70 percent of the bottles end up in land fills, not recycling centers, and none are being reused–but not for long.
This October, COWHORN will be the first Southern Oregon winery to ship used bottles through The RINSE Project and intends to source from Wine Bottle Renew for future bottlings. The project enables the winery to cut its carbon footprint and per bottle cost while delivering an added value to customers: bottles that are better for the wine and the world.
The RINSE Project solves another growing concern for tiny wineries, bottle bloom, a condition when glass becomes cloudy from over exposure to climatic conditions and can cause spoilage. Small producers are frequently the recipients of discarded bottles that are renowned for bringing wine back to life the wrong way.
Inspired by Barbara Steele, the program is the first of its kind with the possibility of scaling up and will complement the winery’s relationship with The Green Glass Company to upcycle bottles into heirloom glassware. In partnership with The Ashland Food Co-op, COWHORN also maintains a Co-op cork-drop that sends used natural corks to Western Pulp for conversion into reusable, compostable wine packs guaranteed to contain a minimum of 99% recycled content.
The RINSE Project is made possible by transportation partner Agri-Plas, a Brooks, Oregon company that recycles agricultural plastics. Agri-Plas will deliver bottles between COWHORN’s Applegate estate and Wine Bottle Renew’s washing operation in Stockton, California. Additional Rogue Valley wineries are expected to join in and give wine lovers more locations to return used bottles for renewal.
“Biodynamic winemaking is about the purity of both our wine and the way we produce it.” says Barabara Steele, co-owner of COWHORN Wines and organizer of The RINSE Project. “Winemaking at COWHORN is a balance of high-tech and high-touch. Wine Bottle Renew uses leading-edge technology to extend the life of wine bottles by a factor or two or more times. Getting bottles back that are cleaner and greener than new glass is an added value for COWHORN customers who support sustainable businesses in spades and increasingly won’t settle for less.”
“We look forward to partnering with COWHORN and Agri-Plas in helping solve the environmental problems associated with discarded wine bottles,” said Bruce Stephens, CEO of Wine Bottle Renew. “Our process will create clean, cost effective and environmentally sustainable wine packaging to wineries everywhere. We welcome all participation.”
The tiny winery has made a big name throughout its home state and beyond for producing wines of exceptional purity and pleasure. It’s 2008 Spiral 36, a hand-crafted blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier, was an early sell-out in its first year prompting Northwest Palate to make it their “Pick of the Palate” and The Oregonian to name it their number one choice for a perfect picnic pairing. Wine writer Matt Kramer praised its 2009 Spiral 36 as “a rare accomplishment” of “very deft winemaking.”
This year alone, Wine Enthusiast has awarded ratings of 90-points to 2009 Spiral 36, 90 to 2008 Grenache 74, an rich unfiltered red, and 91 to the 2008 Syrah 74
Wine Spectator describe COWHORN wines as “sheer pleasure” and Imbibe magazine picked the out-of-the-way winery as one of ten Biodynamic wines they dig. Portland Monthly told readers to “expect to sample some really excellent vino here”; Seattle Metropolitan named COWHORN among the “top 100 northwest wines”; and The Oregonian called them “eye-openingly good.”